5 Ways to Turn Your Divorce Case Into a Train Wreck

There are plenty of opportunities for divorcing spouses to make a mess out of everything during a divorce case. In this article I’ll tell you about five things that will turn your divorce case into a train wreck.

Divorce is tough. It’s emotional. Your soon to be ex-spouse may also be a complete bag of (insert preferred expletive). Maybe they’re so bad that you’re considering doing whatever you can to stick it to him/her during your divorce case out of spite.

Maybe spousal retribution isn’t your goal, but you’re just so emotional about the ordeal, you don’t know

I’ve seen clients employ these five tactics with great success… if your goal is screwing up your divorce. Read on and learn the secrets so you too can turn your divorce case into a train wreck; or avoid it (the preferable goal).*



Consider keeping your nose on your face instead 

Doing any or all of these things is likely to make your divorce case take longer and cost both you and your spouse more. More in financial and emotional resources.

If you choose to turn your divorce case into a train wreck instead of behaving prudently, you’ll also have to wait longer before you can move on with life.

Notice that I’m talking about you, not your spouse? If making the divorce tougher to spite your spouse is your goal, you may accomplish it. However, you’re also quite likely to cut off your own nose to spite your face.

Consider as well that acting in these ways is likely to harm your credibility with the court. Bad behavior that calls into question your parental judgment or fitness could also negatively affect your child custody case.  Moreover, in some circumstances, the court could sanction you for contempt of court. (Your friend Larry is wrong.)

At any rate, if you act badly during your divorce case, you’ll cause major collateral damage. The victims likely to be hurt most… your children.

*Hightower Reff Law doesn’t endorse train wrecks

As you may have gathered, Hightower Reff Law doesn’t endorse these ill-advised spite tactics or purposefully turning your divorce into a train wreck in any way. We strongly suggest you not try these five ways to turn your divorce case into a train wreck, or any others.

These kinds of bad behaviors are very likely to harm the outcome of your divorce case and/or damage your family relationships. Most concerning, some of these emotionally driven, poor choices hurt children.

I hope this information will help readers avoid these mistakes.The client who makes well reasoned, rational choices, instead of emotional poor choices can be at peace, knowing their family relationships and children won’t suffer avoidable negative consequences.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.  

Author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, is a well respected Omaha, Nebraska family law and criminal law attorney with more than fifteen years of law practice experience. For more about Susan, visit her profile page.

If you need help with an Omaha area divorce or other Omaha family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Illegal Search and Seizure – Know What to do if it Happens to You

officer with evidence bagOne of my clients recently “walked” after a special unit of the Nebraska State Patrol trained in drug enforcement caught him with about $40,000 worth of illegal drugs. Was it fancy lawyering that got him off? Well, I think it was good lawyering, but that’s not all.  My client went free from the felony drug charges against him because of laws that protect us all, and because of his smart moves during the police encounter leading to his arrest. It’s important to understand, however, that the laws that set my client free aren’t intended to protect the guilty. Rather, they are to protect the innocent – to protect us all. That’s why, when it comes to illegal search and seizure, you should know what to do if it happens to you.

Illegal Search and Seizure – It Could Happen to You

We’re all guaranteed Constitutional protections from government intrusion on our privacy — innocent and guilty alike. With few exceptions, the police can’t legally bother you with a stop, or search you, unless there’s a credible reason to believe you’re breaking the law (ie. probable cause). But can’t and won’t are two different things.

As we’ve seen in the news, despite laws against unreasonable search and seizure, it still happens. Whether or not you think you’re doing something illegal, this is stuff everyone should know. After all, it’s not only guilty people who are subjected to unlawful police searches. It could happen to you, too. While most of the law enforcement officers I know are good cops who don’t purposefully violate citizens’ rights, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  Law enforcement officers are no different.

Why my client walked

In the recent Douglas County, Nebraska, felony drug case in which my client “walked” instead of serving what could have been a lengthy prison sentence, it happened because the court threw out the evidence against him. All of it.

I made a motion to the court and the judge agreed with me. He refused to allow into evidence the tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of drugs the State Patrol seized from my client’s suitcase, or anything else found during the search. The judge suppressed the evidence because he agreed that it came from an illegal police search. That meant the prosecutor had no choice but to drop the felony drug charges.

I won that Motion to Suppress for my client because law enforcement violated his Constitutional rights with an illegal search. They stopped him without a good reason and they searched his bags without a warrant when there was no exception allowing them to do it. That rendered the evidence they got during the search inadmissible.

I also won because, during the stop, while the Nebraska State Troopers were violating his rights with an unlawful search, my client made the right moves.

What my client did during the stop that was smart

Pay attention to this part. I’m going to tell you exactly what my client did that helped him walk out of the courthouse after being caught with tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.

  1. He didn’t run from police when they approached him
  2. He didn’t argue, resist or obstruct during the encounter

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s not always easy. Emotions can run high during a police encounter, especially if you feel like they’re violating your rights. In my client’s case, staying calm and cooperative and not arguing or telling the troopers how to do their jobs (like they’d listen anyway) paid off for him. Had my client done any of the above, his case could have ended much differently.

How you can be smart too

If law enforcement stops you, whether or not a search follows, the best things to do to help yourself and your lawyer down the road (should the need arise) are:



If the police perform an illegal search and find evidence, a good lawyer will try to have it suppressed so it can’t be used in court. If the search was without a warrant, there may be a chance your lawyer can find a legal argument to give you some leverage in court.

Don’t make it harder on your lawyer by doing something during the cop encounter that could end up making an exception to the warrant rule, clock more charges on your docket, or give the prosecution something to use against you in court.

Remember, you aren’t going to settle any disputes over your rights there on the scene. Those will all have to be hashed out in court later. All you are likely to accomplish by resisting police or arguing with them is to make more trouble for yourself.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

Using GPS to Track Your Spouse During Divorce – Forbidden or a Free-for-all?

cell phone tracking and gps trackingUsing GPS to track your spouse during divorce – or tracking them via their cell phone – is a relatively new thing. Beware however, digitally tracking your spouse is a legally dicy deed.

If you think your spouse is digitally sleuthing you, there are some things you can do.

Using GPS to track your spouse – forbidden, frowned upon, or a free-for-all? 

This month marks the five year anniversary of the first Supreme Court Case to address protection of our privacy rights against digital age government intrusion. In that case, the government used GPS without a warrant to track a suspected drug dealer. The Supreme Court decided government use of GPS tracking is a “search,” that triggers Constitutional protections of our privacy.

However, when two private citizens are involved (like using GPS to track your spouse), and there’s no government action at issue, the rules are different. Sometimes those rules aren’t so clear.

To track or not to track? 

In a Nebraska divorce case or other Nebraska family law case, (or in criminal court) the Judge is likely to view recording sound or images of people differently than only tracking whereabouts of a vehicle.

Not long ago, a Nebraska woman involved in a domestic relations case sewed a recording device into her four-year-old child’s teddy bear. As a result, the court ordered her to pay quite a bit of money in damages, plus attorney fees and costs, for violating her ex-husband’s privacy.

Clearly, if you’re considering using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking your spouse via their cell phone, you should consult with an attorney. Ideally, that attorney should have deep experience in both family and criminal law. Here at Hightower Reff, we practice in both areas of law – family law and criminal law. That means when a client’s question crosses practice area boundaries, we can give them a quick, knowledgeable answer.

Ownership is key

In general, in Nebraska, if you’re thinking of installing a GPS unit on a vehicle to track the vehicle’s movements, make sure your name is on the title. If you’re thinking of using an app for cell phone tracking, make sure it’s through a device on your account.

In Nebraska, you could also hire a private investigator to do spousal surveillance for you. Most PI’s in Nebraska use electronic surveillance after they’ve watched the subject enough to establish a pattern of behavior.

If there’s a protection order against you however, paying someone else to follow your ex for you isn’t likely to play well with a Judge (to say the least).

Foreseeable fails 

Beware – using GPS to track your spouse during a divorce (or otherwise) could put you in hot water. Depending upon the situation between you and your spouse, and how you go about monitoring his or her movements, you could run afoul of harassment or stalking laws.

Additionally, if there’s a protection order in place against you, tracking of any sort is an automatic no-go.

Also, emotions are often intense during a divorce. If your spouse finds out what you’ve been up to, your digital detective work may make bad feelings between you and your soon to be ex-spouse even worse.

Tracking cost-benefit analysis

Another thing to consider if you’re thinking of using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking them via their cell phone, is whether the value of information you may get is likely to be worth the risk. If you’re considering using the information in court during your divorce or other family law case, talk to your attorney about whether it’s likely to be admissible.

Consider also that, even if the Judge lets in the evidence, you could be the one who comes out looking the worst. It may appear that you have control issues, are unreasonable – or you’re just a jerk.

All states aren’t the same

Keep in mind that Nebraska law is different from laws of some other states, so this information may not apply elsewhere. Also, whether tracking or surveillance of a certain nature is legal can change depending on what, if anything, is recorded.

It’s always best to consult with a trusted attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before you do something that may get you in hot water. This is especially true when it comes to something that could have criminal penalties – like GPS or cell phone tracking or surveillance.

Protecting your own digital privacy during divorce – what you can do

While you’re considering going modern-day Inspector Gadget, your spouse may have already beat you to the electronics store (or website, or app store.. or to your phone). But there are some things you can do to protect your privacy from digital disruption during your divorce.


If you think you’ve been tracked (digitally or otherwise), tell your lawyer. She or he can ask written questions of opposing counsel to find out whether your spouse or anyone acting for them has used cell phone tracking or monitoring, GPS, or the services of an investigator.

If you find out your spouse or someone acting for them hired an investigator, your lawyer should subpoena the investigator and get every last bit of information they’ve dug up about you. If your spouse un-truthfully denies hiring an investigator, they can’t use any information from the investigator in court.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff Attorney Scott Hahn, visit his profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s divorce practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, contact Hightower Reff Law today and visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

What Happens if You’re Charged with a Felony in Nebraska (Infographic)

felony-hightower-reff-law-omahaIt can be a scary not knowing what happens when you’re charged with a felony in Nebraska, if you end up on the wrong end of the law.

A felony is the highest stake criminal charge you can face. If you’re convicted, you lose many of your basic rights. You can’t vote, legally have a gun, serve in the military, be issued a passport, hold certain licenses, or get public housing… and the list goes on.

Clarity = peace of mind

When you know what happens when you’re charged with a felony, you’re more clear about things, and that can bring with it peace of mind – and an easier time assisting in your own representation.

Take a look at this Nebraska Felony Roadmap. It lays out the Nebraska felony criminal court process from start to finish, with several different scenarios.

You may be surprised to learn that, for some cases, in some areas of Nebraska, there’s an option that could keep the charge off your record – drug court or diversion.


The entire process from citation or arrest to sentencing can take a year or more. If you’re convicted, you have a limited time after sentencing to file an appeal.

Good support is key

The Hightower Reff Law criminal defense team in Omaha helps good people in bad situations. We have for many years. Getting a good criminal defense lawyer onboard who has a good team behind them is crucial when you’re charged with a felony, because there’s a lot on the line. Along with the peace of mind that comes with understanding the process, you also need the peace of mind that comes with good legal support.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the Omaha office. 

Nebraska Alimony – What you Need to Know (Infographic)

Nebraska Alimony - What you Need to KnowIf you’re thinking of divorce, you may also be wondering about Nebraska alimony (also known as spousal support).

Regardless of whether you think you may end up as the payor or the payee, you should know something about Nebraska alimony before you make decisions about your case.

Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.

The spousal support conversation is an important talk to have with an attorney who’s experienced in Nebraska family law. This article and infographic will give you some basics that will help you have a more productive conversation with that attorney.

In our many years practicing Nebraska family law in at Hightower Reff Law in Omaha, we’ve learned that the more information clients have, the more clear and confident they are about their case, and the decisions they make.

When it comes to Nebraska Alimony, there are some things you may be surprised to learn.

The alimony of yesteryear

If you’re a little older, and someone you knew many years ago divorced, you may have heard it mentioned that the husband was ordered to continue supporting the wife “in the manner to which she’s become accustomed.” That may be the way many courts approached alimony in days of yesteryear, but it’s not the way spousal support goes in Nebraska today.

The times they have a changed

In the majority of cases, Nebraska courts don’t award alimony. If they do, it’s for a short time – long enough for the spouse receiving support to get training or education or find a job. It’s sometimes called “rehabilitative spousal support.”

Nebraska courts usually consider several factors when deciding spousal support – as explained in the infographic below. The court also considers the relative economic circumstances of both parties in its alimony decisions.


In cases where there is child support, that will be determined first, and then the amount of spousal support will be decided based on each party’s income and expenses after child support is paid.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page

Our additional resources on marital property division are available  here

If you need help with a Nebraska divorcecontact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Full Child Custody in Nebraska – What it Really Means (Infographic)

child-custodyYou’ve probably heard someone say “I’m going for full custody.” You may be surprised to learn what full child custody in Nebraska really means – and how likely it may be that you’ll get it.

When someone says “full” custody, they usually mean sole physical and legal custody. The infographic below explains both physical and legal custody in more detail.

Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.

The fall of full custody

One parent having sole custody (also called primary custody) used to be an automatic in Nebraska, unless a parent could prove it wasn’t in the child’s best interests. That isn’t so anymore. Now joint custody is the default, and custody trials ending in sole custody orders are becoming more rare.


Today, unless one parent is shown to be unfit, or there’s another reason joint physical and legal custody wouldn’t be best for the child, Nebraska courts are favoring joint physical and legal custody arrangements in the majority of cases.

It’s important to note, however, that the custody arrangement can me made to suit the needs of the child and the family – and should be. For example, one parent can have sole/primary physical custody (possession), and both parents can still share joint legal custody (decision making), or vice versa.

Regardless of who has legal or physical custody, each parent still has the right to access the child’s educational and medical records.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s child custody practice. 

If you need help with a child custody case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

So You Got Yourself Named in a Felony Warrant, Now What? 
Part II: To Plea or Not to Plea

A felony warrant turns your world upside down. Not only are your freedom and your future on the line – if it’s your first arrest, you’ll have no idea what to expect. This series will give you the basic information you’ll want to know if you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge in Nebraska.

In Part I, we covered your options once you learn of the warrant, and what to expect once you’re arrested.

Now, in Part II of our series, we look at the nitty gritty of plea bargains.

This is no Law & Order

You’ve seen it a million times on Law & Order: The district attorney stares with contempt at the “perp” shackled to the table and advises the defense attorney to tell her client to “take the deal.”

It’s great TV, but real life is a lot more boring. Generally, a plea comes during a phone call or email with the prosecutor’s office. Or, it can come right before or even during the trial. The “perp” usually isn’t in the room during the discussion between the lawyers.  Also, unlike Law & Order, it may be a year or more before the pre-trial work and negotiating is finished and the case is either resolved with a plea or goes to trial.

Three Things You Can Bargain For

On TV, the defense lawyer and the prosecutor usually argue over sentencing, but there is a lot more room for negotiation. It depends on the case, but defense attorneys and prosecutors can negotiate any or all of the following:

  1. The charges:  This is the most common plea bargain. The prosecutor agrees to reduce the number of charges or the severity of the charges, usually in exchange for a guilty plea.
  2. The time you’ll do: This one you’re probably familiar with. It’s where the prosecutor agrees to a lesser sentence than the defendant could face. Sometimes on TV, they combine charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. This can happen in real life too. However, the sentence is up to the judge. The prosecutor can recommend a certain term, so long as it’s within the parameters of Nebraska law, but in the end, the sentence is always up to the court.
  3. The facts: On rare occasions, the defense attorney may be able to negotiate that the defendant will admit to certain facts to keep others from being introduced to the court. This is rare in Douglas County, Nebraska because the judge generally will see the entire police report as part of the report that is conducted prior to sentencing (known as a pre-sentence investigation report, or PSI), and will consider all the facts when sentencing.

Additionally, there are things you can do to help your plea bargain, like drug and alcohol treatment, counseling, or compensating the victim for the losses they suffered because of the crime. We will cover this more in-depth later in the series when we talk about sentencing

So should you take the deal? 

After I get the offer from the prosecutor, I relay it to my client with my advice regarding the pros and cons of accepting the deal. Sometimes it takes some legal wrangling to figure out exactly what evidence the prosecution will be able to actually get in at trial – which affects my advice to clients as to whether or not they should try to reach a plea agreement. No matter what, the decision as to whether to accept it is always up to the client.

A bargain isn’t a guarantee

Even if the defendant, his or her attorney, and the prosecutor’s office reach an agreement, it isn’t a done deal until the court accepts it. That depends on whether the defendant is able to and in fact makes a knowing, voluntary waiver of his or her rights, and whether there is a factual basis to support the charges to which the defendant is entering a plea. If these conditions are met, the sentence is ultimately up to the judge and Nebraska law.

Get help early

The best thing you can do if you are accused of a felony or any crime, is to get experienced legal help from the very beginning. My power to negotiate as a lawyer can be lessened if my client has done something to damage his or her negotiating power before I come on to the case.

If you need help with a felony or other criminal matter, contact Hightower Reff online, or call us at 402-932-9550.

Next Time in the Series

Watch for Part III of our felony arrest series – What to Expect When You’re Expecting… to go to Trial.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.